Rollicking turn in fortunes

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“It is during our darkest moment that we must see the light.”

-Aristotle

A political storm has hit the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government after a news website reported that a company run by party chief Amit Shah’s son, Jay Amit Shah, recorded a 16,000-times increase in turnover in only a year after Modi became the Prime Minister and the senior Shah the party president. The controversy comes at a politically significant moment with elections to the Gujarat Assembly barely 60 days away, and the winter session of Parliament scheduled to start in the first half of November. The astonishing surge in revenues of junior Shah’s company, as the report says, came at a time when the firm received an unsecured loan of Rs 15.78 crore from a financial services firm owned by Rajesh Khandwala, a relative of Parimal Nathwani, a Rajya Sabha MP and top executive of Reliance Industries. One year later, in October 2016, however, Jay Shah’s company suddenly stopped its business activities altogether, declaring, in its director’s report, that Temple’s net worth had “fully eroded” because of the loss it posted that year of Rs 1.4 crore and its losses over earlier years. The report also flagged how Jay’s company, whose business is primarily stock trading, turned to generating wind power with a loan from a public sector enterprise. The news portal report has led to speculations whether such deals were struck between various parties with the collusion of politicians, business leaders and elected lawmakers. The row set off by the report escalated with the Congress demanding the BJP chief’s ouster. Congress strategists, miffed with the BJP targeting Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra, felt it was to time to pay the saffron party back in the same coin. Party vice-president Rahul Gandhi urged PM Modi to clarify the issue, while campaigning in Gujarat. Interestingly, the journalist whose report has now put BJP in back foot, had earlier exposed Robert Vadra’s involvement with DLF’s real estate business. Congress also demanded that the Prime Minister set up an independent probe into the allegations and remove the BJP chief till the process was complete.

Opposition parties have rightly said that since media is one of the strongest pillars of democracy, it is the duty of journalists to raise such issues of what appears to be a classic case of crony capitalism. Every new business starts with nil turn-over on day one, expands later and there is nothing wrong with legitimate expansion of business. It is always seen that with change of power, the fortunes of people associated with the ruling party also changes. Now the moot question is – have Jay, Amitbhai Shah’s fortunes changed with the change of fortune of his father? One hopes that Modi, who came to power with the promise na khaoonga, na khaane doonga (Neither will I take bribes nor will I allow it), will ask the investigative agencies for a probe to restore probity in public life.  Another interesting facet of the whole story is that after such a rollicking turn in fortunes coinciding with the first year of the Modi government, Jayesh Shah’s company suddenly downed its shutters. This deserves to be probed by an independent investigating agency to put the record straight.

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